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The hills surrounding Santa Barbara rose to meet us as we headed North on the 101, our first escape from sheltering in place. To my surprise, the grasses on the hills are now golden, the deep emerald green just a memory, vanishing quickly once the rainy season ended about the same time as the covid season began in CA.  I could feel my spirits lifting.  The blue Pacific, just to the left of the freeway was relatively calm.  I reaffirmed to myself that California is indeed beautiful. This undisturbed landscape felt just right today, the antidote to being cooped up.

We’d originally planned to drive to Morro Bay for the day until my daughter convinced us that we would not be happy with all the development that has taken place since we were last there, may be twenty years ago.  We reluctantly changed our minds and opted for a shorter drive to an isolated county park at Jalama, to have a (world famous) Jalama burger for lunch.  I sat back and enjoyed the last of the spring wildflowers gracing the hillsides, hoping that this outing might be the beginning of a reasonable non covid obsessed summer.


Native, undeveloped California has a soul – expanding  landscape. Development has encroached on too much of it, but much remains.  When I find it, I’m always overwhelmed by its grandeur, rawness and power.  The area near Vandenberg AFB just off the 101 is a so – far- so- good- part of the state.  It’s made up of old ranch holdings unchanged for generations.  That means many acres of grassland, a few farms, a few wineries, with a few derelict buildings remaining here and there.  I can almost picture Native Americans gathering fish and shells along the shoreline while the cowboys do their thing across what is now a very busy freeway, as a stagecoach rumbles over a hill.  The marine fog bank, an ever present sight in June, hovers expectantly off shore.  For now, the sun is shining brightly.

golden ca

Leaving the coastline, the 101 jogs to the north.  We find the road to Jalama.  As we approach the campground, we discover that we’re only one of dozens who have decided Jalama is their destination today.  We have to line up to wait to find parking.  Eventually we are able to park.  It’s so windy and chilly here that I have no desire to take the long walk I’d planned on.  My husband joins the line to order the Jalama burger and invites me to wait in the parked car.  Here, it’s as if there is no pandemic. Strangely,  no one is social distancing and no one wears a mask.   I do not protest and wait somewhat patiently in the car.  Within 45 more minutes the huge overstuffed patty is in our hungry hands.


We’ve been spotted by dozens of resident seagulls who seem to survive by staring down and wheeling over hungry visitors as they plead for food.  The sandwich is really too big for me anyway, and I contribute the remains of it to the birds who snap it up immediately. Without saying thank you.


It’s still too windy to walk, so we decide to head for home.  I am refreshed. It’s a beautiful world.


Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • devapnek says:

    Yes, for the great work done by the Land Trust. I’m with you. Protection for sure.

  • Laura Wilson says:

    We go to Jalama for the clam chowder…it is truly some of the best we have ever had!

  • Susan Ward says:

    Made me chuckle! Many years ago we camped at Jalama, beautiful but VERY windy, felt like it would pick up our tent with us in it!! The ocean by Vandenberg is wild and wonderful. Presently many parts are closed to protect the snowy plover. I am patiently waiting to get back to some of those areas. Soooo beautiful, thanks for the reminder!

    • devapnek says:

      Sounds like the wind is a constant! But the beauty is there, for sure!

  • Sheri says:

    Thanks for the virtual road trip!! Land like this is why the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County is working so hard to keep our beautiful wild lands, local farms and ranches safe from development forever!! Sheri🌾

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